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Black or White? Weighing New Roofing Decisions

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 16:10

Some board members may think deciding about a new roof surface is over their heads (forgive the pun). Condominium board members and property managers of urban mid and high-rise buildings often face flat roof maintenance issues and now a new wrinkle in the roofing decision process has arisen: black or white.

In the recent past most flat roofs were made with a rubber-like elastomeric membrane called EPDM. Though black EPDM still accounts for the majority of flat membrane roofs for condo, commercial, and industrial buildings in the northern states, you will see things are changing just by looking out an airplane window as you approach a major airport to see the roof landscape below turning white.

“Cool” Roofs?
Cool roofs are designed to reduce energy consumption and reduce what is commonly called the urban heat island effect. Cool roofs are categorized into three basis types: white, reflective coated, or green (vegetated) roofs. White roofs are the most common with TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) being the typical choices. Though PVC and TPO roofs have the same wear and cost factors, PVC materials have some negative characteristics, such as high toxicity and un-recyclability, so for ease of comparing black to white we will only consider EPDM vs. TPO in our comparison discussions.

Comparing Options
To start with TPO roof membranes are recognized to have longer lives lasting on average 25 years compared to EPDM lasting 20 years. This is in some part due to TPO’s resistance to UV and thermal expansion damage. Some TPO products developed bad reputations in the past due to their inability to handle severe cold which in some cases caused the membrane to shatter. These problems are reported to have been eliminated with today’s TPO roofing materials.

Secondly, the initial cost favors EPDM roofs.  However, when life cycle and energy cost issues are considered the black and white roofs become competitive. Installation methods differ in that EPDM seams are taped or adhesively sealed while TPO seams are welded by a thermal process.

There are strong forces pushing the general acceptance of white roofs in the future.  States such as California have passed laws in 2005 requiring the use of reflective roofing materials as well as individual cities such as Chicago establishing building codes to favor its use. There is a body of evidence developing showing the heat island effect of black surfaces, which include not just roofs but also parking lots, paved roads, and building facades, can have an impact on local weather characteristics.

The nation’s largest green building advocates are influencing architects and building owners by favorably rating buildings with cool roofs. Under the joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) for a roofing product to receive an Energy Star label under its Roof Product Program it must have a solar reflectivity of at least 0.65 and weathered reflectance of at least 0.50 in accordance with EPA testing procedures.

Going Green
The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) has created a rating system for measuring and reporting the solar reflectance and thermal emittance of 850 roofing products and provides this to energy service providers, building code bodies, architects and specifiers, property owners, and community planners. The Green Building Initiative has instituted its Green Globe system in the US and Canada to develop benchmark criteria for a building’s likely energy consumption as a result of roofing material’s solar reflectance and thermal emittance.

The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is now widely used for most publicly funded building projects and many high profile non-government buildings as a result of legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies and tax incentives. Architects seeking a LEED certification for their project will receive credit for white, cool roofing meeting LEED solar reflective index guidelines.

Winter Penalty?
So with all of this horse power pushing for cool roofs, it seems like an easy black or white decision for the condo board facing a roof replacement project. Maybe not. For northern condos the problem is a little complicated. CRRC admits to a “winter penalty” when cool roofs are installed in northern climates. DOE building modeling data reveal that in the north heating is a much more significant factor in energy use than cooling. In fact, heating accounts for 29% of energy used compared to only 6% for cooling.

It turns out that insulation is a more important element for energy efficiency than cool roofs here in New England.  It has to do with the amount of Heating Degree Days (HDD) and Cooling Degree Days (CDD). As an example, Boston has 5,841 HDD and 646 CDD as compared to Albuquerque’s 4,361 HDD and 1,211 CDD.  Therefore using DOE’s cool roof calculator, Boston’s high number of HDD’s and positive winter heat gain results in lower energy usage and fewer carbon emissions with an EPDM roof. So talk with your roof consultant and remain cool.

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media October 2019 edition

Download a PDF Version of this Condo Media Article

The post Black or White? Weighing New Roofing Decisions appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Congratulations to Our Client: Australia-based Orora Group

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 15:06

Congratulations to our client the Orora Group, based in Australia, on their recent lease of warehouse #200 at 1905 110th Street in Grand Prairie, Texas. Criterium Engineers performed a Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment on the 102,000 square foot warehouse building.

Orora Group works closely with its customers to provide an extensive range of tailored packaging solutions and displays. From glass bottles to boxes to packaging equipment and more, they are total packaging solutions specialists. Orora Group operates in seven countries and has more than 6,800 team members.

The post Congratulations to Our Client: Australia-based Orora Group appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Commercial Building Inspections: Why You Should Hire an Engineer Versus a Building Inspector

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:26

For every real estate transaction that you are involved in—chances are—as part of the due-diligence process you are hiring a commercial building inspection professional to inspect the property. This is a helpful and valuable service that you routinely recommend to clients any may be required by lenders, however if the inspection is not done objectively and carefully, it may lead to major issues.

Whether you need a commercial building inspection or the gold-standard property condition assessment, the inspection is a critical step in the process—and you need an experienced expert on your side.

The term “building inspector” is often a self-issued title and, with the exception of a few states, there is very little regulation in this rapidly growing industry. On the other hand, Professional Engineers are licensed by the state in which they practice, and they:

  • Have completed an accredited, degreed engineering program;
  • Have four years of work under the direction of other engineers;
  • Passed a comprehensive two-day exam;
  • Are bound by a code of ethics and state law to practice only in areas where they are qualified.

Professional Engineers Can Save Time & Money

By law in most states, only a licensed, Professional Engineer is permitted to render an opinion as to the structural integrity of a building. A building inspector may be qualified to find the symptoms that a building presents (i.e., there is a crack), but then must suggest the consulting services of a licensed, Professional Engineer for further evaluation. This can be an expensive and time delaying addition to the inspection process. Hiring a building inspector who is a licensed, Professional Engineer, in the first place, can save your client additional consulting fees and valuable time.

Professional Engineers Are Insured

Another important aspect is that licensed, Professional Engineers maintain comprehensive professional liability insurance with nationally recognized insurance carriers. As licensed, Professional Engineers, we strive to deliver on our promises. In the event of an error or oversight, having professional liability coverage means we have the financial means to back up our work.

Professional Engineers Are Legally Accountable

The most important quality is the accountability as Professional Engineers. They stand behind their work and are legally and ethically accountable.

Whether your clients are large corporations, real estate investment trusts or individual investors, engaging with licensed, Professional Engineers will give your clients the peace of mind that they are getting the most professional advice available.

At Criterium Engineers we have more than 60 years of experience inspecting tens of thousands of commercial projects across the country. Our inspectors are licensed, Professional Engineers with years of building-related experience. They are further trained by Criterium Engineers to provide inspections and must participate in peer review and continuing education programs. Our commercial building inspection reports provide a detailed summary of our findings, highlighting building strengths as well as any identifying weaknesses or potential problems. We clearly explain a building’s condition, so our clients can make confident, informed decisions about their purchase.

The post Commercial Building Inspections: Why You Should Hire an Engineer Versus a Building Inspector appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Vinyl Siding – or Not

Latest "Your Home" Article - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 15:39

Perhaps you are on the Building Committee which has been charged by your Homeowners Association Board to recommend a replacement siding material for your 35 year old condo. Perhaps you are a property manager whose in-basket is filled with unit owner complaints about vinyl clapboard siding problems in the new condo complex. Whatever the vinyl façade issue is, the future solutions may surprise you.

Vinyl siding materials are everywhere. It is probably the most common façade material in all its forms used on condominiums across the nation, and for good reason. It is quick to install; it is relatively inexpensive; and has an estimated useful life of over 40 years. Most of its negatives are well understood: it can crack or break from hail or your grandkids hockey pucks; it can make noise when it’s windy or too hot; colors fade or become chalky over time; and frequent cleaning is required. However, these may not be the issues you may face with vinyl siding.

Solar Attack

This problem can fall in the unintended consequences category. With the issuance of the new building energy codes and the drive to reduce our heating costs and carbon footprint, we are melting our vinyl siding. This is happening due to the installation of the new low-E, highly insulated glass windows being installed in both new buildings and replacement windows.

The thermal layers and reflective properties of these high-tech windows cause sun rays to bounce off and reflect onto adjacent vinyl siding clad buildings causing the siding to buckle; warp; or melt. These new window surfaces act like magnifying glasses concentrating the solar energy on a vinyl surface that cannot tolerate heat over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This condition can occur when a window on the south elevation of the building is near a right angle corner wall covered in vinyl siding. It can even occur when a new commercial building is built across the street and its new glass wall façade faces the sun and reflects across the street to your vinyl sided property.

So what are you to do? This problem was rare in the past but now solar damage is occurring with increasing frequency due to the drive to install low-E windows. The Vinyl Siding Institute suggests placing awning or shades over the windows and even changing the landscaping to create shade trees to block the light. Some vinyl siding manufacturers are addressing this type of solar damage by adding a ‘thermal diffusion agent’ to the vinyl mix at the factory to help reflect and resist the heat build-up.

Manufacturers are also responding to the problem with vinyl siding by excluding solar refection or melt damage from their warranties. Their warranties always excluded damage from heat sources such as gas grills placed too close to the exterior wall, but now damage from reflective windows is recognized so it would be wise to read the fine print before selecting a siding brand.

Color Fading

This increasing problem is a sub-set of the solar melting problem. Whether it be due to window reflective energy; climate change; or changes in manufacturing, color fading complaints are becoming more prevalent. In the past, color fade was protected with a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.

In the past, this warranty issue would be handled by a siding replacement policy. Now, some manufacturers are offering a ‘restore’ process instead of replacement. The ‘restore’ process would allow the manufacturer to paint the siding with an acrylic paint often applied by specialist painting contractors. This restore process comes with a 10-year warranty, down from the prior ‘limited-lifetime’ color warranty. Here again, read the fine print before signing the contract.

Installation

Vinyl siding may be quick to install, but it is not easy, if it is done right. Vinyl siding has an integral vinyl tab at the top in which an oval hole is punched at set intervals along its length to allow a nail to be driven through this hole and into the sheathing. Sounds simple, but it is not. The manufacturer specification requires the installer to drive the nail head within 1/32th of the vapor barrier/ sheathing surface so as not to bind the thermal movement of the siding.

Keep in mind the fasteners are being driven by an adjustable nail gun requiring a level of skill to properly set the nails in each slot hole without touching the vinyl. This accuracy requirement, coupled with today’s reduced numbers of skilled construction personnel, makes this a quality control challenge. If fastener binding does occur, the siding will not properly move with thermal expansion and buckling will soon appear on the surface.

So the answer to today’s vinyl siding problems: do your research. Read the manufacturer’s specifications and warranties; ensure your contractor is committed to good supervision of the installation of this important building envelope element; and finally, follow up with your own quality verification program, either through your building committee or project engineer. The siding is only as good as it is installed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media September 2019 edition

Download a PDF Version of this Condo Media Article

The post Vinyl Siding – or Not appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Vinyl Siding – or Not

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 15:39

Perhaps you are on the Building Committee which has been charged by your Homeowners Association Board to recommend a replacement siding material for your 35 year old condo. Perhaps you are a property manager whose in-basket is filled with unit owner complaints about vinyl clapboard siding problems in the new condo complex. Whatever the vinyl façade issue is, the future solutions may surprise you.

Vinyl siding materials are everywhere. It is probably the most common façade material in all its forms used on condominiums across the nation, and for good reason. It is quick to install; it is relatively inexpensive; and has an estimated useful life of over 40 years. Most of its negatives are well understood: it can crack or break from hail or your grandkids hockey pucks; it can make noise when it’s windy or too hot; colors fade or become chalky over time; and frequent cleaning is required. However, these may not be the issues you may face with vinyl siding.

Solar Attack

This problem can fall in the unintended consequences category. With the issuance of the new building energy codes and the drive to reduce our heating costs and carbon footprint, we are melting our vinyl siding. This is happening due to the installation of the new low-E, highly insulated glass windows being installed in both new buildings and replacement windows.

The thermal layers and reflective properties of these high-tech windows cause sun rays to bounce off and reflect onto adjacent vinyl siding clad buildings causing the siding to buckle; warp; or melt. These new window surfaces act like magnifying glasses concentrating the solar energy on a vinyl surface that cannot tolerate heat over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This condition can occur when a window on the south elevation of the building is near a right angle corner wall covered in vinyl siding. It can even occur when a new commercial building is built across the street and its new glass wall façade faces the sun and reflects across the street to your vinyl sided property.

So what are you to do? This problem was rare in the past but now solar damage is occurring with increasing frequency due to the drive to install low-E windows. The Vinyl Siding Institute suggests placing awning or shades over the windows and even changing the landscaping to create shade trees to block the light. Some vinyl siding manufacturers are addressing this type of solar damage by adding a ‘thermal diffusion agent’ to the vinyl mix at the factory to help reflect and resist the heat build-up.

Manufacturers are also responding to the problem with vinyl siding by excluding solar refection or melt damage from their warranties. Their warranties always excluded damage from heat sources such as gas grills placed too close to the exterior wall, but now damage from reflective windows is recognized so it would be wise to read the fine print before selecting a siding brand.

Color Fading

This increasing problem is a sub-set of the solar melting problem. Whether it be due to window reflective energy; climate change; or changes in manufacturing, color fading complaints are becoming more prevalent. In the past, color fade was protected with a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.

In the past, this warranty issue would be handled by a siding replacement policy. Now, some manufacturers are offering a ‘restore’ process instead of replacement. The ‘restore’ process would allow the manufacturer to paint the siding with an acrylic paint often applied by specialist painting contractors. This restore process comes with a 10-year warranty, down from the prior ‘limited-lifetime’ color warranty. Here again, read the fine print before signing the contract.

Installation

Vinyl siding may be quick to install, but it is not easy, if it is done right. Vinyl siding has an integral vinyl tab at the top in which an oval hole is punched at set intervals along its length to allow a nail to be driven through this hole and into the sheathing. Sounds simple, but it is not. The manufacturer specification requires the installer to drive the nail head within 1/32th of the vapor barrier/ sheathing surface so as not to bind the thermal movement of the siding.

Keep in mind the fasteners are being driven by an adjustable nail gun requiring a level of skill to properly set the nails in each slot hole without touching the vinyl. This accuracy requirement, coupled with today’s reduced numbers of skilled construction personnel, makes this a quality control challenge. If fastener binding does occur, the siding will not properly move with thermal expansion and buckling will soon appear on the surface.

So the answer to today’s vinyl siding problems: do your research. Read the manufacturer’s specifications and warranties; ensure your contractor is committed to good supervision of the installation of this important building envelope element; and finally, follow up with your own quality verification program, either through your building committee or project engineer. The siding is only as good as it is installed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media September 2019 edition

Download a PDF Version of this Condo Media Article

The post Vinyl Siding – or Not appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Find Us at the Maine Condo Expo – September 21

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Tue, 08/27/2019 - 14:31

As one of our valued homeowner association clients here in Maine, we want to let you know that the annual Maine Condo Expo and Forum is taking place on Saturday, September 21 from 8:00 – 2:30 pm.

The New England Chapter of the Community Associations Institute is presenting the event, one of several state-based events happening across New England. Criterium Engineers is one of the Portland event’s tabletop sponsors and we hope that we see you there.

Our own Jack Carr, P.E., senior vice president of engineering, is one of the featured speakers. Cole Smith, our vice president of business development, will also be on hand at our exhibit, to answer your questions about our homeowner association services such as reserve studies, transition studies, construction monitoring and other services.

The Maine Condo Expo and Forum  is for condominium board members and professional managers based in Maine. Please forward this message to others on your board or to a community manager who may be interested in attending. Registration is online.

Expo topics include:

  • Legal panel Q&A
    Condominium attorneys will address issues ranging from reasonable accommodations and rules
    enforcement to owner/resident challenges and board authority. Find out what gets boards in legal
    trouble and how you can avoid it.
  • Identify, Prioritize & Fund Association Projects
    Discover how to prioritize and fund capital improvement projects. Review strategies to address
    deferred maintenance and understand the legal risks in avoiding necessary maintenance.
  • Roundtable Discussions with Industry Professionals – A Program for Board Members
    Professionals will answer questions and address issues specific to Maine communities and their
    boards in this popular roundtable format.
  • Managers’ Forum – A Program for Association Managers
    This facilitated exchange of best practices will foster new ideas and creative approaches to the
    everyday challenges confronting managers.

The post Find Us at the Maine Condo Expo – September 21 appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

All-American Family LLC Purchases 1041 Brighton Avenue

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Mon, 08/26/2019 - 08:57

A 24,150 square foot retail facility at 1041 Brighton Avenue in Portland, Maine, was recently purchased by All-American Family LLC. We congratulate the buyers as well as Charles Day of Porta & Co., who represented the seller, on the closing.

Criterium Engineers performed a Property Condition Assessment on the facility which includes a convenience store, restaurant and other mixed use tenants. The deal closed in mid-July.

The post All-American Family LLC Purchases 1041 Brighton Avenue appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Congratulations to Our Client: Hussey Seating Company

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Mon, 08/26/2019 - 08:57

Congratulations to our client at Hussey Seating, global producer of spectator and audience seating, on their purchase of 90 Community Drive. Hussey purchased the 45,000 square foot building which is situated on 24.9 acres in Sanford, Maine, to expand their operations.

Criterium Engineers was engaged to perform a pre-purchase Property Condition Assessment as well as a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment which were conducted by Campbell Grant, P.E., senior engineer at Criterium Engineers corporate office. 

Hussey Seating began operations in 1835 and remains a family-owned business. Their products are installed across the globe in high school gymnasiums, tracks and football fields,  professional arenas, and performing arts centers. 

The post Congratulations to Our Client: Hussey Seating Company appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

A Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment Pays For Itself!

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Mon, 08/26/2019 - 08:57

Criterium Engineers provides the straightforward evaluation required for an extensive Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment (PCA) for clients looking to lease buildings of all sizes. They are especially useful for Triple-Net Lease negotiations.

Be Informed!

Investing in due diligence and being an informed lessee provides greater confidence in the property, quantitative information for tenants, as well as peace of mind that the property will be appropriate for our client’s expectations.

  • Understand the property’s baseline condition
  • Solid information to make decisions on repairs or replacements, especially for Triple-Net Lessees
  • Detailed information to share with tenants
  • Saves time, money and establishes a baseline, which may minimize conflict with the building owner
  • Benefits all parties involved in the transaction
Request a Proposal! What is a Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment?
  • Customized for the client’s business purpose
  • Used in support of real estate transactions
  • Commissioned for lease negotiations and, at times, upon termination
  • Provides an accurate condition of the asset
  • Offers an opinion on the building’s useful life
  • Outlines the probable costs required to repair or resolve any building issues
Details in a Customized Pre-Lease PCA Include
  • Representation of the property’s physical condition, including: property description, site improvements, and building systems
  • Outline of capital needs and opinion on probable costs: short-term repairs or replacements and preliminary capital budgets for the future
  • Recommendations for further study
  • Baseline data to resolve deficiencies and issues
  • Digital photography and informative reference exhibits/documents

Click here to view an outline of an example PCA.

Reports vary in length (often exceeding thirty pages) and are based on building size and complexity—for example a report prepared for a 35-story downtown office building, differs greatly from that for a 1,800 square foot retail space.

The average building PCA reviews more than 30 major building and site elements in great detail. It provides descriptions, deficiencies and recommendations. It also includes probable costs for repair or replacement of damaged or failing building systems or safety issues. PCA reports are customized for each client and may be designed to focus on areas that otherwise may not be covered in a baseline assessment.

What Does a Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment Cost?

$4,000-6,000 (average) and long-term savings: tens of thousands (on average)

The post A Pre-Lease Property Condition Assessment Pays For Itself! appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Foundation Forensics

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 14:27

Cracks in foundations are by far the most common structural complaint raised in either reserve fund studies or transition studies.  They can occur in the youngest or newest condo building.  As condo documents usually assign the maintenance responsibility of their repair to the association, board members and property managers take them very seriously.  Maine condo buildings have many types of foundations including concrete block; brick; and mortared stone with the most common being poured concrete.

Most basements and garages have 4 to 6 inch concrete slabs and unless this is a slab-on-grade foundation, the slabs were poured independently of the foundation walls.  They are said to be ‘floating’.  Often the construction joint between the slab and wall can easily be seen.  The common slab crack complaint is hairline cracks appearing in spider web-like patterns.  These cracks can show up shortly after construction and are normally caused by shrinkage during the curing process.  The key point here is this type of slab cracking is rarely a structural problem, for after all, the slab could be completely removed leaving a dirt floor while the foundation walls and columns with footings will easily maintain a stable building.

Therefore, slab cracking is often more of a cosmetic problem.  Cracks are often repaired with a variety of grout, caulk, or epoxy products primarily to prevent groundwater penetration, insect entry, or radon gas infiltration.  Cracks showing differential movement on opposing surfaces can be a tripping hazard but more importantly an indication of serious sub-surface conditions needing further investigation.

Regarding foundation walls, the most typical problem with concrete walls are vertical hairline cracks, often starting at the top of the wall and traveling down to the floor slab.  A sub-set of these types of cracks are those that propagate often in a diagonal direction from stress concentration points such as the bottom corners of basement window openings.  The key point to remember is these types of cracks, even when they penetrate the entire thickness of the wall, normally do not constitute a structural problem as the loads from above pass unobstructed on both sides of the crack to the footings below.

However, when the wall surfaces on both sides of the crack are moving out of plane or the structure above shows stress in the form of movement or cracking sheetrock walls and ceilings above, further structural evaluation is warranted.  Foundation cracks should be sealed if periodic water infiltration occurs.  Repairing cracks from the outside if often the best method, but due to the excavation costs involved, repairing the crack from the interior by injecting a crack filling material has become a routine solution.

When horizontal wall cracks; multiple closely spaced vertical cracks; or large diagonal cracks in basement corners are observed, these conditions may indicate more serious problems related to settlement or other structural problems.  Similarly, a single vertical crack that is much wider at the top of the wall may indicated foundation settlement problems stemming from poor soil conditions; hydrostatic groundwater pressures; or frost heaving.  These problems should be directed to a knowledgeable consultant.

Regarding concrete block foundation walls, most of the guidance above can be used with some exceptions.  By their nature concrete block walls are often not well reinforced and are subject to inward movement from various soil pressures causing these types of walls can bulge inward.  Ice lens forming about 3 feet below the ground surface can expand and push concrete block walls inward.  This can even occur from a vehicle’s weight being too close to the foundation, such as oil delivery truck.  When horizontal cracking is observed in block walls, steps should be taken quickly to prevent further movement.  These types of walls are also very susceptible to water penetration even when foundation drains are present often requiring serious water proofing repairs.

The key to maintaining a sound brick or concrete block foundation is periodic vigilance to ensure loose or dislocated masonry elements are not ignored.  If you observe a ‘stair step’ patten crack in the mortar joints of a masonry foundation wall, it typically means settlement has occurred under the ‘step’ section of the wall. .  Any observed bulges or horizontal movement, as well as new cracks, should be quickly addressed.

Many Maine condominiums have been converted from old multi-family apartment buildings with mortared or un-mortared stone foundations, some with brick foundation walls above the ground surface.  These foundations have stood the test of time and are more than 100 years old and if well maintained can last another 100 years.  They are more likely to allow the entrance of ground water due to their porous nature and the necessary steps should be taken to protect the structural elements and indoor air quality of the building if high moisture is a problem.  Old foundations are like people.  As they age, they need some extra care but they have already met the test of time.

Download the PDF Version

The post Foundation Forensics appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Foundation Forensics

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 14:27

Cracks in foundations are by far the most common structural complaint raised in either reserve fund studies or transition studies.  They can occur in the youngest or newest condo building.  As condo documents usually assign the maintenance responsibility of their repair to the association, board members and property managers take them very seriously.  Maine condo buildings have many types of foundations including concrete block; brick; and mortared stone with the most common being poured concrete.

Most basements and garages have 4 to 6 inch concrete slabs and unless this is a slab-on-grade foundation, the slabs were poured independently of the foundation walls.  They are said to be ‘floating’.  Often the construction joint between the slab and wall can easily be seen.  The common slab crack complaint is hairline cracks appearing in spider web-like patterns.  These cracks can show up shortly after construction and are normally caused by shrinkage during the curing process.  The key point here is this type of slab cracking is rarely a structural problem, for after all, the slab could be completely removed leaving a dirt floor while the foundation walls and columns with footings will easily maintain a stable building.

Therefore, slab cracking is often more of a cosmetic problem.  Cracks are often repaired with a variety of grout, caulk, or epoxy products primarily to prevent groundwater penetration, insect entry, or radon gas infiltration.  Cracks showing differential movement on opposing surfaces can be a tripping hazard but more importantly an indication of serious sub-surface conditions needing further investigation.

Regarding foundation walls, the most typical problem with concrete walls are vertical hairline cracks, often starting at the top of the wall and traveling down to the floor slab.  A sub-set of these types of cracks are those that propagate often in a diagonal direction from stress concentration points such as the bottom corners of basement window openings.  The key point to remember is these types of cracks, even when they penetrate the entire thickness of the wall, normally do not constitute a structural problem as the loads from above pass unobstructed on both sides of the crack to the footings below.

However, when the wall surfaces on both sides of the crack are moving out of plane or the structure above shows stress in the form of movement or cracking sheetrock walls and ceilings above, further structural evaluation is warranted.  Foundation cracks should be sealed if periodic water infiltration occurs.  Repairing cracks from the outside if often the best method, but due to the excavation costs involved, repairing the crack from the interior by injecting a crack filling material has become a routine solution.

When horizontal wall cracks; multiple closely spaced vertical cracks; or large diagonal cracks in basement corners are observed, these conditions may indicate more serious problems related to settlement or other structural problems.  Similarly, a single vertical crack that is much wider at the top of the wall may indicated foundation settlement problems stemming from poor soil conditions; hydrostatic groundwater pressures; or frost heaving.  These problems should be directed to a knowledgeable consultant.

Regarding concrete block foundation walls, most of the guidance above can be used with some exceptions.  By their nature concrete block walls are often not well reinforced and are subject to inward movement from various soil pressures causing these types of walls can bulge inward.  Ice lens forming about 3 feet below the ground surface can expand and push concrete block walls inward.  This can even occur from a vehicle’s weight being too close to the foundation, such as oil delivery truck.  When horizontal cracking is observed in block walls, steps should be taken quickly to prevent further movement.  These types of walls are also very susceptible to water penetration even when foundation drains are present often requiring serious water proofing repairs.

The key to maintaining a sound brick or concrete block foundation is periodic vigilance to ensure loose or dislocated masonry elements are not ignored.  If you observe a ‘stair step’ patten crack in the mortar joints of a masonry foundation wall, it typically means settlement has occurred under the ‘step’ section of the wall. .  Any observed bulges or horizontal movement, as well as new cracks, should be quickly addressed.

Many Maine condominiums have been converted from old multi-family apartment buildings with mortared or un-mortared stone foundations, some with brick foundation walls above the ground surface.  These foundations have stood the test of time and are more than 100 years old and if well maintained can last another 100 years.  They are more likely to allow the entrance of ground water due to their porous nature and the necessary steps should be taken to protect the structural elements and indoor air quality of the building if high moisture is a problem.  Old foundations are like people.  As they age, they need some extra care but they have already met the test of time.

Download the PDF Version

The post Foundation Forensics appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Cinamon Building: It’s Not About the Spice!

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Wed, 07/31/2019 - 10:01

Congratulations to our clients Jim & Rebecca Henry, represented by Josh Soley of Maine Realty Advisors, on their recent purchase of the Cinamon Building at 1 Pleasant Street in downtown Portland, Maine. The historic structure built in 1900 is named not for the aromatic spice, but instead for the longtime owners—the Cinamon family—with a slight variation in the spelling. An historic view of the building from 1924 is available on the Maine Memory network.

Just prior to the recent sale,Criterium Engineers performed a structural inspection on the historic four-story brick structure, located on the corner of Pleasant and Center Streets. Criterium’s Nate Powelson, P.E., performed the inspection. The Cinamon Building is managed by Soley and currently houses a popular restaurant as well as several businesses.

 

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Accelerate Depreciation for Your Commercial Real Estate

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 09:25
What property types benefit most from accelerated depreciation with a Cost Segregation Study?

 

Many of the costs embedded in a new or existing building can be segregated into categories that also allow for more rapid — or accelerated — depreciation. Many items inside the building – furnishings, fixtures, flooring and the like – can be depreciated more quickly, over 5 to 7 years; and the site improvement components can be depreciated over a 15-year period.

Best suited for:
  • Real estate construction valued at over $1 million
  • Building acquisitions or improvements
  • New buildings under construction
  • Existing buildings undergoing renovations or expansions
Best savings potential:
  • Office buildings
  • Shopping centers
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Warehouses and distribution centers
  • Manufacturing and industrial plants
  • Medical facilities

Learn more about accelerated depreciation and cost segregation studies. The CSS can be done independently or conducted in parallel with a Property Condition Report, an Environmental Site Assessment. The IRS has detailed information on cost segregation techniques, as well.

For investors considering whether to purchase a commercial property and for real estate brokers trying to make a marginal transaction feasible, a Cost Segregation Analysis may be essential and Criterium Engineers is uniquely qualified perform it.
Request a Proposal!

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Solar Panels — Right For Your HOA?

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:00

Solar panels may be an option for your community. Legislative incentives are available in states around the country. 

There is a growing consensus that climate change is real and its consequences will have significant impact on our quality of life and regional economic future. While the cause of climate change may be debated, its potential impact on future generations should not be. So the real question should be, what are we going to do about it?

If part of the solution to climate change is living more sustainably with a goal of zero-carbon power production, condominiums can take a key role in this effort. By the very nature of community living, condominiums reduce our carbon footprint through more efficient use of the land and reduction of construction materials with multi-family building designs. Many urban condos are developed by recycling old buildings that are re-purposed thus avoiding the wrecking ball and waste generation.

Condominiums can take a leadership position to promote more environmental friendly municipal projects ranging from efficient public transportation; avoidance of the consumption of fossil fuels in favor of sustainable electric generation for heat pumps or electric powered vehicles; and waste recycling.

While there may be some hard choices in our future, some recent events in Maine give hope we have turned the corner and will now address climate change head-on. The prior state administration’s opposition to developing sustainable energy sources including wind and solar power has been replaced after the gubernatorial election with an informed environmental agenda.

The most recent illustration of this is Governor Mills’ passage of a bill in April to reverse prior state regulations suppressing photo-voltaic (PV) solar panel use. The new regulation has reinstated the net metering rules allowing users of PV panels to receive tax credits for sending excess power into the electric grid. This not only makes the investment in solar panels more financially feasible but also promote stability in the PV market allowing solar panel suppliers to plan for the future, as is the case in most other states.

Not only has the price for these PV solar panels been dropping rapidly over the past few years, the methods of maximizing their usefulness in a community environment is becoming more viable with the newest technology allowing both direct and scattered sunlight to create electricity and by use of power inverters so electric power can be directed into batteries or the utility grid to sell back excess electricity. These PV panels can be grouped into arrays called micro-grids that can collect electricity and distribute to not just one user but a community of users.

These micro-grids can be located in a wide range of locations. They do not have to be on top of roofs which are objectionable to many. Instead, they can be located in empty areas around the condo complex. As an example, one of these ‘solar farms’ can feed two buildings with four units in each. Buildings such as these are fueled today by shared propane tanks in the backyard, why not solar arrays?

These types of PV solar arrays can provide electricity to fuel common elements such as the club house; street lights; and hallways light fixtures. Unit owners could opted into becoming a member of a solar farm and own a portion of the panel array (called a share) or they could opt out. Those owners who become members of the array can then improve their current old heating system by converting to an electric, ductless mini-split system producing both heating and cooling which they never had before and adding value to their unit. With inexpensive electrical power available condominiums can consider adding fueling stations for battery driven automobiles further reducing fossil based fuel consumption and fostering cleaner air.

Though the April bill on approving net metering is good news, much more legislative action is needed. Currently, there is a state imposed cap on the number of users that can participate in a community solar array. This cap of nine (9) participants needs to increase to make community solar farms viable for most condominiums. There are plans in the works in Augusta to increase the level of participants in a solar array project to 50 or even 200.

Those condo communities with an interest in using solar power in the future should be following these legislative events.  It is not too early to form an exploratory committee to review all of the special issues condos will face to implement solar power, as compared to an individual home owner. This research should reach out to other states who are ahead of Maine’s solar curve.  One good source is A Solar Guide for Condominiums Owners and Associations in Massachusetts easily found on Google. With the governor’s recent establishment of the Office of Innovation and the Future and other local municipal resources readily available, a well-conceived bright solar future is ahead of us.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media July 2019 edition

Download a PDF copy of this Condo Media Article

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Burning Questions & Fire Safety Checklist

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Tue, 07/09/2019 - 12:02

⇒Go to checklist

The words ‘safety or security’ mean different things to members of a condominium or HOA community.  While the board or property manager may be focusing on the common element safety dangers such as the pool or the walkways/ paved surfaces, unit owners’ biggest concern is unit security and household accidents.  In reality, condo communities are like families and therefore all safety issues are of concern to all members.

Having a board appointed safety committee would be a step in the right direction.  This committee should recommend units have hard wired smoke detectors in every bedroom of both ionization and photoelectric types.  Carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every level while condo buildings with hallways should investigate the need for self-closing and fire rated doors where required.  Hall doors should have proper weather stripping and sweeps to prevent gaps allowing both smoke migration and fresh air from fueling a fire.  Sprinkler systems should be inspected quarterly.

Many communities would benefit from an informal training program for the unit owners to remind them where the fire alarms are located and how to use them.  Fire emergency egress pathways should be well understood and posted. In some communities it may be useful to arrange an outside location where everyone gathers following an emergency clearing of the building to ensure all are accounted.

Here again, demographics drive safety concerns as much as anything.  With the boomers aging and moving out of the big family homes to downsize into the condo world, over 55-type condo communities are growing rapidly and with that the need for protecting our aging population becomes paramount.  Many communities are requiring ‘Knox box’ type of devices to provide access keys to first responders when the need arises.  These boxes allow a non-destructive means of emergency access to residential units as well as controls for gates; fire protection systems; elevators; and other critical equipment.

A typical fire safety checklist:

    Are all combustibles more than 36 inches away from a wood or coal stove?
√    Do you have hard-wired smoke alarms near all sleeping areas?
√    Do you have a carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas?
√    Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and garage/ workshop area?
√    Are the attached garages separated from living areas by fire-resistant materials?
√    Are all flammable materials stored outside or in well-ventilated areas?
    Are gas water heaters in the garage up at least 18 inches off the floor?
    Have all bottled and natural gas fittings been inspected in last 12 months?

Fire safety checklist for egress issues:

√    Do all interior and exterior stairs have a railing on at least one side?
    Do all stairs wider than 36 inches have railings on both sides?
    Do all porches, balconies, and decks have railings around the perimeter?
    Are the railings secure, i.e. could they withstand a horizontal force of 200 pounds?
    Are all balusters or grillage spaces less than 4 inches wide?
    Do any railings have integrated benches?  This encourages sitting on the top rail.
    Are any porch, balcony, or deck railings less than 42 inches high?

Fire safety is no accident.  Safety does start at home.  To protect our families we all must turn a critical eye on all elements in the community and how they would function in an emergency.  There is no better time to do so.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media June 2019 edition

Download a PDF copy of this CondoMedia Article and the fire safety checklist

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Lewiston Gateway: Congratulations to MH Properties

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Tue, 07/02/2019 - 09:16

Congratulations to our client Matt Hancock of MH Properties LLC, based in Maine, on his recent purchase of three adjacent properties in Lewiston, Maine:

  • 475 Lisbon Street
  • 491 Lisbon Street
  • 500 Canal Street

Criterium Engineers was hired to perform Commercial Building Inspections, conducted by Jack Carr, P.E., on all three buildings, known as the Lewiston Gateway Complex. The buildings are adjacent to one another in the center of the city’s downtown district.

 

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Congrats to Our Client Connecticut River Capital

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Fri, 06/21/2019 - 12:33

Congratulations to our clients at Connecticut River Capital for their recent purchase of 465 Congress Street and their plans to get Portland’s first skyscraper ‘back to where it should be,’ as mentioned in the Portland Press Herald.

Criterium Engineers was engaged to perform a Property Condition Assessment, which was conducted by Campbell Grant, P.E., prior to Connecticut River Capital’s purchase of this iconic building. A PCA is the gold standard for building inspections, conforming with national standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and Standard and Poor’s.

Portland’s first high-rise—at ten stories tall—was built in 1910 and is historically known as the Fidelity Trust Building, but more recently called the People’s United Bank Building. It is located in the center of downtown Portland, Maine, at Congress and Preble Streets, near Monument Square. Criterium Engineer’s corporate headquarters was once located across from this property.

We look forward to seeing the work Connecticut River Capital will do to create the next rendition of this historic Portland property. .

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How to Sell the Results of a Reserve Study Without a Revolt

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 11:31

While the importance of associations building a strong reserve fund is no mystery to you, raising fees or assessments is often a sensitive subject with homeowners. Every association needs a long-term planning goal, and a reserve study creates an accurate timetable for all major improvements. Learn how to address those sensitivities and sell the results of a reserve study with a revolt.

FIDUCIARY DUTY

One of the primary business duties of community associations is maintaining and preserving property values of the associations’ common property. To do this properly, associations must develop funding plans for future repair or replacement of major common-area components.

A reserve study is a budget-planning tool that identifies the current status of the reserve fund and establishes a stable and equitable funding plan to offset the anticipated future major common-area expenditures. Being prepared for non-annual expenses allows your association to change the unexpected to the expected. Reserve studies are one of the best strategies for financial and physical health at the association’s disposal. In order to keep the replacement costs current, the reserve study should be updated (with a site visit) every three to four years.

COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIPS

It is our belief that fundamental to the accomplishment of any of these objectives is two basic premises: communication and relationships. Communication is multi-faceted – between the board and the owners, between the board (and/or subcommittee) and the consultant, and between the consultant and the owners. To ignore these opportunities for effective communication will result in diluting the effectiveness and ultimate success of the implementation of any reserve study on the books for your association.

Relationship nurtures trust and confidence. Through effective communication, greater trust and confidence can be developed between the various parties involved. As a result, it is more likely (although certainly not guaranteed) that the recommendations of a reserve fund study can be effectively implemented.

AN OUTLINE FOR SUCCESS

It is imperative that the scope of a reserve study be clearly defined before even seeking proposals from consultants. The following are a variety of options to be included in the scope of any Request for Proposals:

  • Define the project – From the table above, define exactly what is expected of the consultant. This should be as a result of discussion by the board and/or building subcommittee to determine what is needed. It is particularly important to decide whether the reserve study is to be based on simply replacing existing components or if upgrades and improvements should be considered.
  • Interview the consultant – The RFP should include a paragraph such as follows below. Getting to know the consultant, the people involved on your project and their approach to the project is imperative to a successful relationship.
    The board will select two to three consultants it believes to be qualified for the work and then conduct interviews. The objective of the interview is to meet the people who will be specifically working on our project, discuss a variety of questions, and generally understand the procedures the consultant intends to use for the project. A final choice will be made within one week following the interviews.
    A reserve provider’s objectives are threefold: to provide a broader perspective on reserve studies; to assist property managers with a successful presentation of reserve fund studies; and to create opportunities for more meaningful reserve studies and effective implementation of recommendations.
  • Pre-project meeting – The board (or building subcommittee) should meet with the consultant before actual work starts. The objective is to refine and finalize the scope of the project. This is also an opportunity to determine what will be expected of the association (or management company) and what will be expected of the consultant throughout the project. Suggested language for the RFP is as follows:
    The first step after selection is a meeting with the board (building subcommittee) to review, refine, and finalize the scope of this project. At that time, the items to be covered, the procedures involved, the on-site protocol to be used by the consultant, and any special concerns of the board (building subcommittee) will be discussed.
  • Conduct an owner survey – The intent is to give all of the owners the opportunity to express any particular concerns they might have about the project. While this may seem risky, it has been our experience that it is actually quite effective. Such a survey would be accompanied by a letter from the association providing all of the owners with the scope and limitations of the reserve study to be conducted and encouraging them to respond to the survey. It has been our experience that there is a very high percentage of response. Often the response to these surveys will reveal patterns that relate to association responsibilities as well as giving owners the opportunity to note areas of concern. The following is text for the RFP relative to this point:
    The consultant is expected to participate in at least one meeting with the board (building subcommittee) prior to commencement of the project.
    The consultant is expected to distribute a survey for use by all unit owners and compile the results of that survey as a part of the reserve fund study.
    The content of the survey should be reviewed and modified for each specific project. Also, a letter should be distributed to the unit owners, along with the survey, explaining the purpose and logistics of the reserve study and the survey. That letter should be on the association stationery. The survey would be on the consultant’s stationery.
    The final report would include a summary of the survey findings as well as any specific recommendations or observations related to the survey.
  • Follow-up meetings – It is important that the consultant be willing to discuss the findings of the study with the directors, building subcommittee, and unit owners. This is especially important if the study includes an evaluation of upgrades and improvements. Ideally, there will have been ongoing communication with the directors (building subcommittee) throughout the study process. A meeting with the unit owners will be a logical extension of that process. The following is language to be used in an RFP for that purpose:
    The consultant is expected to attend at least one meeting to which all of the unit owners are invited. This will occur after submittal and acceptance of the final report. The consultant will be expected to provide an overview of their findings and to respond to questions from the unit owners.
  • Report format – Effective communication means effective distribution of information. In larger associations (more than thirty to fifty unit owners), distributing the complete report is impractical, cumbersome, and usually unnecessary. However, a condensed “owners’ report” is a valuable tool to distribute information. Typically, the owners’ report would include an executive summary and the financial projections that are part of the master report. To achieve this purpose, the following language is suggested for the RFP:
    The consultant will provide (enough for the board or building subcommittee) copies of the complete final report. This will include photographs highlighting areas of concern and/or special interest. In addition, the consultant will provide a single reproducible copy of an owners’ report which will include a brief (two to three pages) overview of the findings of the study and the reserve fund projections.
  • Review draft report – For the association, directors, and building subcommittee to be comfortable with the work of the consultant, it is important that there be interaction throughout the process. Generally, we recommend that the consultants meet with the directors/building subcommittee regularly throughout the process of developing the study and submit a draft report for review and comment by the directors/building subcommittee. Recommended RFP language is as follows:
    The consultant will provide a draft report for review by the board (building subcommittee). The board (building subcommittee) will provide comments within two weeks of receipt of the draft report. Following that, the consultant will provide its final report.
Now That You Have the Results, Where Do You Go From Here?

In the first half of this article, we discussed reserve studies and selling the results of the report to your association (without a revolt!). Now that you have the association on board with the report, how do you go about implementing the actual findings?

Click here to download the full article and a complete look at next steps…

* * * * *

This article was written by H. Alan Mooney, P.E., R.S., Criterium Engineers

To download a PDF version, click here.

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Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready?

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Fri, 05/31/2019 - 14:56

The engineers at Criterium encourage residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to prepare for the hurricane season which begins each year on the first of June.

This year’s seasonal forecast was recently announced by NOAA’s Climate Prediction. They predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a range of 9 to 15 named storms. Dr. Gerry Bell, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA, provides this season’s outlook.

Now is a good time to prepare your home or business for such an event. FEMA provides a wide array of hurricane tips—including what to do before, during and after a hurricane at READY.gov.

It’s also a good time to take photos of your residence or commercial property in its current state. That way, if your property is involved in a hurricane—you have photos to use as a basis of comparison. When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better for documenting any hurricane damage. That way you will have “before” and “after” photos to document your property’s situation.

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready?

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Fri, 05/31/2019 - 14:56

The engineers at Criterium encourage residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to prepare for the hurricane season which begins each year on the first of June.

This year’s seasonal forecast was recently announced by NOAA’s Climate Prediction. They predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a range of 9 to 15 named storms. Dr. Gerry Bell, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA, provides this season’s outlook.

Now is a good time to prepare your home or business for such an event. FEMA provides a wide array of hurricane tips—including what to do before, during and after a hurricane at READY.gov.

It’s also a good time to take photos of your residence or commercial property in its current state. That way, if your property is involved in a hurricane—you have photos to use as a basis of comparison. When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better for documenting any hurricane damage. That way you will have “before” and “after” photos to document your property’s situation.

The post Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers